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Starnes&Shah About Enjoying the Music; People

Headed by White Plains residents Dania Abu-Shaheen and Zilpha Starnes, Starnes&Shah is bringing its unique sound to the Northeast region and beyond.

At the end of the day, music is really about the people who enjoy it.

After a long day of work, then practice, then maybe a live show, that's one of the things that keep Dania Abu-Shaheen, 29, and Zilpha Starnes, 30, of Starnes&Shah going - they love music and their fans do too.

The White Plains women have performed nearly 100 live shows together since starting the band seven years ago. The two met while attending Sarah Lawrence College in Westchester and have been dedicated to making music together since. Both work full-time jobs, but have still found time to release three full-length albums and perform live on a regular basis.

“You get home late,” Starnes said. “But you know you’ve spent time doing something you enjoy at the end of the day.”

Starnes said that's something that helps her during performances, she looks out at the crowd and knows many of them have spent the day at work, living their lives and are there to have fun and enjoy some music. It's fun to realize she's there for the same reason.

“We don’t have a label, we do this completely ourselves, and there’s a lot of responsibility financially, but there’s also a lot of freedom,” Starnes said. “That’s something that we have really come to enjoy.”

Both performers say they take pride in performing live, and have traveled the Northeast from Maine to Philadelphia for shows. They have performed as far away as Lebanon and Texas.

The band focuses on vocal harmony, with Shaheen on the guitar and Starnes on the keyboard. Their music started out closer to the folk-rock genre, but has evolved over time to more of an indie rock sound. 

“The music has evolved a lot, but the heart of it still is that we are a band of two vocalists and we highlight vocal harmony in every song,” Shaheen said. “There’s no song when one sits out.”

Since moving to White Plains a couple of years ago the band has also been performing at the local scene, playing at bars including Elements on Mamaroneck Ave. They also practice and perform regularly in New York City and make an effort to perform live wherever and as often as possible.

“It’s really rewarding to go somewhere where you are connecting with brand new people and a brand new city through music,” Shaheen said.

The shows are usually at smaller, fun venues, which allow the band to interact closely with the audience, something both musicians say they enjoy. Road trips and performances are mostly self-organized, and practice times are fit into busy work schedules. But it's the love of music, and performance, that keep the two so busy.

“It’s about balancing the life with the play,” Starnes said. “We don’t have as much time as we would like to devote to music, but I think that forces us to make the best use of every moment we have.”

Starnes&Shah is preparing to release its fourth album this summer, and has built a steady following on the regional music scene. The growing popularity hasn't changed the vision of the band; it's still about deep lyrics, a fun sound and meaningful music.

Find out more about Starnes&Shah by visiting their website here.

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